Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Buddha taught rebirth

Francis Story, Rebirth as Doctrine and Experience, intro. by Dr. Ian Stevenson (Buddhist Publication Society,, pp. 91-ff); Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Crystal Q. (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
I love you so much, son! - Mom, I wanna become a monk. - What? No! Go to your room!
Readers of an English-language newspaper in [Sri Lanka] have recently been following with interest a controversy that has flared up on the issue of whether or not the Buddha taught rebirth.

To a Buddhist it must be a matter of astonishment that such a dispute could arise — not because rebirth is a [rock solid belief] of Buddhism but because without it, Buddhism itself would have no meaning.

The Buddha taught the Dharma for making an end of all suffering. If suffering automatically comes to an end with the dissolution of the physical body, it is pointless to commit oneself to a rigorous system of self-discipline and purification, as Buddhism calls for, in order to free oneself from suffering.

Such a course would serve no purpose but to add more suffering to life. For it is nonsense to pretend that the Buddhist path of purification — or any spiritual system of self-improvement — is an easy path to follow. Much easier is the way of the world, which is no way to get to nirvana.
An argument might be made for the social utility of having everyone follow the Five Precepts [to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and consuming intoxicants] regardless of karmic results. But who would inflict on oneself the pains of the first attempts at meditation if there were no higher goal in sight?

If everything ends with death, the entire teaching of karma and vipáka, volitional actions and their results, goes by the wayside. It is a matter of common observation that even the most evil deeds do not always bring their comeuppance in this life, nor good ones their reward.

This, in fact, is the chief argument of Buddhism (as it is of the rationalist) against the belief in a just and benevolent God. It is precisely this teaching of a moral law (karma) operating from life to life that forms the greater part of the Buddha’s instruction both to monastics and laypersons.

All the other doctrines of Buddhism revolve around it, even that of the means by which nirvana is attained. For what is nirvana but the cessation of the beginningless round of rebirths (samsara), linked with actions (karma) and their results (vipaka and phala, mental resultants and karmic fruit)?

The Stages of Enlightenment
Moreover, the Buddha again and again described in unmistakable terms the process which we call rebirth. The idea of rebirth, and of the necessity of bringing it to a final end if we are to make an end of all suffering, is interwoven throughout the fabric of the Dharma. It permeates the whole of Buddhism, from beginning to end.

Thus the stream-winner (sotápanna, the first stage of enlightenment), if s/he does not attain any higher stage in this current life, is assured of having to face no more than seven rebirths at most before gaining complete release (nirvana).

The once-returner (sakadágámi, the second stage) returns but once to the five-sense world.
  • [EDITOR'S NOTE: Why the sudden jump from seven to one rebirth? This is an artifact of condensing the various stages down to just four important categories. But if we sees the Path to Freedom (Vimuttimagga), one finds the other types of stream-winners listed.]
The non-returner (anāgāmi) does not return at all to this world, but passes into nirvana (nibbana) from the Brahma-world when that lengthy lifespan there is ended.

The arhat experiences nirvana here and now and when passing away makes a final end of all rebirth as no remnant of clinging remains. [It would be incorrect to say that this person "dies" because death always implies rebirth, and when one has made an end of rebirth, one has made an end of death.]

I was reborn, and I'm not a Buddhist. I was a pilot. I remember.
If the Buddha did not teach rebirth, what is the meaning of all this? And what of all the other references to past lives and rebirth scattered as plentiful as tree leaves throughout the Threefold Collection (Tipitaka) of sacred texts?

To maintain that the Buddha did not teach rebirth is surely the most curious aberration that has ever appeared in Buddhism. It places upon one who holds it the burden of proof that most of the statements attributed to the Buddha were not made by him at all.

This is equivalent to saying that the major part of the texts is a fraud. For a non-Buddhist to declare that he or she cannot believe in rebirth is, from that person's point of view, reasonable and honest. The Buddhist will concede that that person is entitled to his opinion, be it Annihilationist (ucchedavádi) or Eternalist (sassatavádi).
  • [EDITOR'S NOTE: Dogmatic religious views tend to maintain that there is a soul that survives death and lives on eternally, or the opposite view that there is no soul that survives, but rather it (a self) is annihilated at death. (The first tends to be promoted by faithful religionists, the second by materialists, "scientific" types, and hopeless skeptics). The Buddha shows that both views are in error. Buddhism is not a belief system, although it may seem to be. It is a practice, a path of insight to realize what is and is not true so that one is liberated from delusion and views. It is ultimately true that things are impersonal. There is no self, so it cannot live on eternally. What we regard as "self" (the composite of the Five Aggregates -- body, feelings, perceptions, formations, and consciousness) is passing away at every moment. There is no self, so it cannot be annihilated. The process will survive death, and rebirth will take place, as it has innumerable times. And unless it is stopped, suffering (misery, disappointment, lack of fulfillment) will continue indefinitely, because it is constantly getting new fuel. Buddhist practice is aimed at realization, but most of us don't want to realize something we think is to our detriment. We cannot see how it is to our great benefit, so we scoff at it in ignorance. Conventionally, of course, there is a self. We talk about it all the time. We conceive in terms of it. We would never question its existence if a fully awakened being did not arise and teach this unique doctrine (anatta) essential to awakening. What does it matter that there is no self? It matters because directly realizing this truth is essential for winning the first stage of enlightenment and gaining liberation from all suffering.]
But for one claiming to be a Buddhist to maintain that the Buddha did not teach rebirth is intellectual dishonesty of the worst kind. It would be better for such a person to state, as the non-Buddhist does, that one believes the Buddha to have been mistaken. In so saying, the Eternalist or Annihilationist is at least being true to one's own convictions, erroneous though they are, and some credit is due for that.

Better is honest doubt or sheer disbelief than perverting the Enlightened One’s clear teaching on this matter. The sincere doubter is always open to conviction, but one who has willfully perverted the Buddha’s words and meaning has a rather miserable future — the future of one who has deliberately cut him or herself off from the Truth.

This is the case because even if the doctrine of rebirth were not true, it is true that the Buddha taught it. The denial of that fact constitutes a lie. It is intellectual dishonesty of this kind that represents the greatest danger to Buddhism today.

The Dharma can stand up against any criticism from those of other religions or of none. But there is little defense against the calculated confusion of ideas that works destruction from within. This is the most subtle and effective form of anti-Buddhist propaganda.

Unfortunately, little is being done to check it. Buddhism has no central authority "for the preservation of doctrine," and anyone in saffron robes or layperson’s dress can put forward whatever travesty of the Dharma one cares to propagate.

Did the Buddha teach rebirth?
The ultimate Truth is true regardless of whether we ever know it. Find it, for it sets us free.
Oh no, renewed becoming again and again...
This offers a curious paradox. At a time when more and more people all over the world are beginning to take rebirth seriously as a possible explanation of life’s enigmas — as evidenced by such books as Reincarnation: An East-West Anthology, and by the fact that even some Christian churches are beginning to pave the way towards an acceptance of rebirth as not contrary to Christian doctrine [in fact it was originally part of Jesus' teachings removed at the Council of Nicea by Emperor Constantine] — some self-styled “advanced” Buddhists are trying to discard it [perhaps to appear more in line with science].

To anyone who understands their mentality the explanation is quite plain: These advocates of what they consider a “modern” Buddhism are simply out of date. They belong to the late 19th century, with which they have just caught up. Their attitude pleases them for one of two reasons, either because it deludes them with a feeling of intellectual superiority, or else because it is part of their identification with the materialism which they fondly imagine to be the latest development of human thought.

They could be dismissed as negligible cranks, except for the influence they wield over less mature minds.

What exactly are the facts of the matter? They are, first and foremost, that the Buddha rejected both extremes, Eternalism, the belief that the self/soul is eternal, and Annihilationalism, the belief that there is no continuity of the life process after death.

Now “continuity of the life process” is not the same as postulating the transmigration (traveling of an eternal soul through many lifetimes) of a self. More

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

What and who is the Panchen Lama?

CC Liu, Seth Auberon (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly Wiki edit
Khedrup Gelek Pelzang, first (to be retroactively titled) "Panchen Lama"
The Panchen Lama (Tibetan པཎ་ཆེན་བླ་མ།) is a tulku of the Gelug (Yellow Hat) school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Panchen Lama is one of the most important figures in the Gelug tradition, with spiritual authority second only to Dalai Lama.

"Panchen" is a portmanteau word combining "Pandita" and "Chenpo," meaning "Great scholar."
The recognition of Panchen Lamas began with Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen, tutor of the 5th Dalai Lama, who received the title "Panchen Bogd" from Altan Khan and the Dalai Lama in 1645. Bogd is Mongolian, meaning "holy."

John Oliver interviews the 14th Dalia Lama.
Khedrup Gelek Pelzang, Sönam Choklang, and Ensapa Lobsang Döndrup were subsequently recognized as the first, second, and third Panchen Lamas posthumously and retroactively after the term was invented.

There is a big controversy about the current Panchen Lama in China. More

  • China kidnaps official Panchen Lama, hides him away
  • China trots out its own offically crowned "Panchen Lama"

Worldlings: Who are the many folk?

Ven. Nyanatiloka, Buddhist Dictionary ( edited by Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly

Hey, drink anyone? Let's drink our lives away!
The uninstructed worldling (puthujjana) is, literally, "one of the many folk," an "ordinary person."

"Worldling" refers to any layperson or monastic who is still bound by all Ten Fetters which bind beings to the Round of Rebirths and has therefore not yet reached any of the Four Stages of Enlightenment (to become a noble one or aryan-puggala).

"Whosoever is neither freed from the three fetters (personality-belief, skeptical doubt, clinging to mere rules and rituals to try to gain enlightenment) nor on the way to dropping these three things, such a person is called a 'worlding'" (Pug. 9).

I'm interested in learning and practicing.
According to the Commentary to MN 9, a "worlding" may be one of four types:
  • (1) an outsider (non-Buddhist) who, if one at least believes in moral causation (karma), may be said to have right view to that extent, but one does not yet have "knowledge conforming to the truths" (saccā-nulomika-ñāna), as does
  • (2) a "worldling within the Buddha's Dispensation" (sāsanika).
  • In addition, a worlding drawn to Buddhism may be either:
  • (3) a "blind worldling" (andha-putthujjana) who has neither knowledge of nor interest in the fundamental Teachings (Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, Five Aggregates, the links of Dependent Origination, etc.) or
  • (4) a "noble worldling" (kalyāna-putthujjana) who has some knowledge and earnestly strives to understand and put into practice these Teachings.
See Atthasālini Tr. II, 451 (translated by "average person"); Commentary to MN 1, DN 1. Source

Monday, November 18, 2019

China cracks down on Hong Kong (video)

VICE News; DW News 11/18/19; Pfc. Sandoval, Seth Auberon, CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

(VICE News) Parents gather outside the university to beg police to let their kids go, while one protest leader called on the international community to prevent "Tiananmen 2019." [Information about which is unknown to most Chinese, who have their Internet censored worse than U.S. censorship.]

Hong Kong University standoff between protesters trapped by police
(DW News, Nov. 18, 2019) A standoff at the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong continues after students barricaded themselves inside during anti-Chinese government demonstrations and infiltrated (agent provocateur) protests.

Some desperate university students attempt to flee, but police appear to trap them inside the university by firing tear gas and rubber bullets [deadly projectile intended to cause sever trauma, unconsciousness, and permanent injury as if struck by a baseball bat] on those who tried to disperse. Up to 800 protesters gathered on the campus, some of them carrying homemade weapons such as slingshots, rocks, and Molotov cocktails. Police threaten to use live amunition [shoot them to death with military-grade weapons from a distance] if they fail to disarm themselves. In either case, armed or disarmed, they have been trapped at the university and cannot leave.

But what if I CAN'T MEDITATE? (video)

Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Crystal Q. (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Mingyur Rinpoche (

To be able to meditate, start when you are unable to meditate. Soon you will (
"Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a moustache. You won't be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, it will come looking for you."
- Thai Meditation Master Ajahn Chah
Hold on, I'll meditate in a minute, I'm busy.
In the meantime, let us sit until we still. Sit still to get still. It doesn't make sense, but it's true. For example, a Buddhist Publication Society writer once pointed this out:

"The only way to stop smoking is to stop smoking." He observed that whenever he wanted to be a nonsmoker, it first required not smoking. He had to be a smoker-not-smoking. Then eventually by restraint he became a nonsmoker.

Of course, he wanted to smoke even though he wanted not to. What he really wanted was to not want to.

I want to meditate. I want to be the sort of meditator (who regularly meditates) who wants to meditate. But I can't meditate! (I can't seem to get myself to "meditate" in the sense of seeing a sign, magical powers, bliss, total calm, absorption, the coming together of the factors of enlightenment, ease of one-pointed attention, keen interest in the meditation object, etc.) What am I to do?

Sit. "Meditate." Try. And by keeping trying, it will come about. The way to sit is to sit. Let's take Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche's advice on HOW to do what we think is impossible.

Science: Secret to Popularity discovered

Ellie Zolfagharifard (, 4/15/15); Crystal Q., Ashley Wells (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
It's not about wearing the latest fashions but about having enough empathy to "read minds."
There are Four Bases of Popularity
The secret of the popular kids: Researchers find "mind reading" abilities make children more likeable. The research looked at 20 separate studies involving 2,096 children.

Empathy [feeling others' feelings with them, what the Buddha referred to as mudita, "empathetic joy," "happiness in others' happiness"] was the common factor in making and maintaining friendships. This is especially true for girls, whose friendships usually involve more intimacy.

"Wipe your butt, Stinky." (The Rut)
It's not about wearing the latest fashion or being on the football team; the secret to being popular at school is "mind reading." This is according to an Australian study that found popular children are better at knowing what others want, think, and feel.

The same goes for pre-schoolers and young adults, suggesting that empathy is one of the most important skills for becoming part of the "cool crowd."

"Our study suggests that understanding others' mental perspectives may facilitate the kind of interactions that help children become or remain popular," said Virginia Slaughter, professor of psychology at the University of Queensland.
The ability to find out what other people are thinking and feeling is called "theory of the mind" and helps people distinguish, for instance, between sarcasm and insult.

While individual studies have shown an association with popularity in the past, this research looked across the findings of 20 different studies.

Together, the studies included 2,096 children from 2 to 10 years old from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. More

Dalai Lama on late night comedy (video)

Editors, Wisdom Quarterly; Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO);

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
(HBO) Tibetan Buddhists have suffered deep persecution under Chinese capitalist-communist rule. John Oliver sits down with the Dalai Lama -- the "pope" of Tibetan Buddhism (or at least of the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism) -- to discuss China, the conditions in Tibet, and his future reincarnation now that the Panchen Lama, who identifies him (his tulku) when he is reborn, has been abducted by the Chinese government and sent to a "re-education camp" and/or substituted with a lama favored by China.
Connect with Last Week Tonight online. Subscribe on YouTube for more almost news as it almost happens. Find on Facebook like your mom would. Follow on Twitter for news about jokes and jokes about news. Visit official site for all that other stuff at once.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Trump and Religion: Paula White (video)

Late Night w/Seth Meyers, 8/1/17; J. Oliver; Seth Auberon, Crystal Q. (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

The Check In: Trump and Religion
Seth Meyers takes a break from breaking news to check in on Pres. Trump's evolving views on religion, faith, and the un-separation of church and state. Warning: Strong language and pseudo-glossolalia.

(Now This) Con artist, faith healer, prosperity gospel preacher, hypocrite?

(John Oliver) Who are these Christian televangelist money hogs for God?

Saturday, November 16, 2019

LA Buddhist Temple moving to SGV (Nov. 17)

Bhante (Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara); Ashley Wells, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly

All are invited to the Devotees' Preview Day at the new location of the Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara.

The temple or vihara (monastery) was formerly located in Pasadena, and before that in Hollywood. It is Sri Lankan Theravada. The new home is in Covina between the 10 and 210 Freeways, deep in the suburbs of the San Gabriel Valley,  L.A. County.

NOTE: The Ill Full Moon Observance Program for November will now be held on Sunday, Nov. 24th. All are kindly invited to observe the Eight Precepts for this traditional lunar observance (uposatha) day to practice in intensive at the new location.
  • Devotees' Preview Day, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019
  • Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara
  • 920 N. Summit Ave., Pasadena, CA 91103
  • 1023 N. Glendora Ave., Covina, CA 91724
  • Telephone: (626) 797-6144

"Uprooted" - plight of Native Americans (NPR)

KPCC (, LA NPR affiliate; Xochitl, Dhr. Seven, Crystal Q. (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
UPROOTED: The 1950s Plan to Erase Indian Country
KPCC 89.3 FM airs "UPROOTED" at noon
In the 1950s, the U.S. government launched a campaign to assimilate Native Americans by eliminating reservations, terminating tribal governments, and persuading Native people to move to cities. Hundreds of thousands of Native people relocated to distant cities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Oakland, and Los Angeles. This documentary presents the voices of people who survived a devastating plan to solve "the Indian problem."

Los Angeles Pow Wow, Grand Park (Nov. 16); Xochitl, Dhr. Seven, Crystal Quintero (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

2019 LACCNAIC Pow Wow

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Come join us at the 4th Annual LACCNAIC Pow Wow on November 16, 2019 at Grand Park in Los Angeles, California. We are gathering everyone into Downtown Los Angeles as we celebrate our many cultures on the land of one of the first villages in Los Angeles. All are welcome and encouraged to attend. Come celebrate our culture as we remain a vital part of the Los Angeles community. Enjoy Art and Crafts vendors, Dance Contests, Native Foods, Hoop Dancers and more.


The LACCNAIC Pow Wow is sponsored by the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission and is a family friendly, drug and alcohol free event. Be sure to bring everyone, and bring folding chairs as seating is limited.
LACCNAIC Pow Wow Schedule
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Gourd Dancing at 11:00 a.m.
Grand Entry at 12:00 noon
Featuring: Art and Crafts vendors • Dance Contests • Native Foods • Hoop Dancer
Pow Wow Head Staff:
Master of Ceremonies: Arlie Neskahi
Arena Director: Victor Chavez
Sound Director: Craig Stone
Drums: Hale & Company, Bear Springs, Indian Hill
Head Man: Daron Henson
Head Woman: Clementine Bordeauz
Host Gourd: Golden State Gourd Dance Society
Bird Singers, Apache Dancers, Storytelling at the teepee

LACC NAIC Pow Wow Mini Gallery

Mini Gallery
All Drummers and Dancers Welcome
Grand Park
200 N Grand Ave
(Between 1st & Temple)
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Parking is available at Music Center on Grand Avenue and Broadway (between 1st and Temple)
Take the free shuttle from the parking lots to the pow wow grounds at Grand Park.
For More Information:
General Information: Pat Lopez or
Vendor Information: Shawn ImitateDog
Food Vendors: Cheri Thomas
Mark your calendar today so you don’t miss the next LACC NAIC Pow Wow in December at Grand Park in Los Angeles, California.
Tags: LACCNAIC Pow Wow, LACC NAIC Powwow, California Powwow, California Pow Wow, LACC Native American Indian Commission Pow Wow

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